IF ONLY…

Have you ever lamented, “If only (fill in the blank)”? Most of us can probably think of something we longed for – and prayed for – but didn’t get. If only…those words speak to the ache in our hearts when life does not turn out the way we had planned. Martha and Mary, friends of Jesus, uttered those very words in their grief, after their brother Lazarus died. The story is found in John 12. The sisters had sent an urgent message to Jesus, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick” (V.11 NLT). Their thought was, “If only Jesus would come, he would heal our brother.” It’s interesting to note what Jesus did next: “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days” (V.5). What? He stayed where he was…for two days! Anyone...

GETTING PAST THE “WHAT IFS’

Some of the biggest battles I have ever fought never happened. I have spent too much time and energy in my lifetime focused on “What if?” scenarios that never materialized: • What if (you name it) happens? • What if (fill in the blank) doesn’t happen? I can conjure up worst-case scenarios at a moment’s notice. Can you relate? Our “What if?” questions are usually followed by “What will I do?” questions. The end result is anxiety over things that are out of our control. It is as productive as a dog chasing its tail. When I resumed my career as a social worker in 1988, after a time-out to raise my family, I argued with my soon-to-be supervisor Betty about her decision to hire me. I was afraid she was offering me the position because she knew me outside the...

THE LEAST OF THESE

Class hadn’t even begun when everyone passed the “final exam.” It was the first day of teaching a new series in Sunday School, using Philip Yancy’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? My plan was to begin class by showing a video clip of a powerful story told by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church:   A homeless alcoholic named David used to sleep in his own urine on the steps of the church. One Easter Sunday he wandered inside, reeking of alcohol, urine and the streets. After the message, David approached Pastor Cymbala. The pastor admits his first thought was that he was going to get hit up for money. Instead, David fell into his arms and said, “I want this Jesus you spoke of.”  David received Christ that day and experienced a miraculous...

OUTCOMES: IN GOD’S HANDS

Got expectations? How’s your serenity? According to the Big Book* of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), our serenity (sense of wellness, peace of mind) is “inversely proportional” to our expectations. Therefore, when we anticipate a particular outcome with a person or situation, our serenity is low – especially when they are not cooperating with our plans! When we leave outcomes in God’s hands, our serenity level is high. AA made the prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr famous: God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Ah, yes – the wisdom to know the difference… It is not wrong to have expectations. It is a problem, however, to expect or demand that life go our way. The...

JESUS KNOWS ME

“Jesus knows me – This I love!” My friend Lisa shared this twist on the old favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me.” She saw it on a plaque in a friend’s home. A few keystrokes later (Google Search is a writer’s best friend) I learned that the phrase is actually the title of a children’s song written by Raymond Elliot. It was recorded by Kidz/Daywind Music Group. Jesus knows ME – and He knows YOU. Amazing. He knows our name and everything about us! Here are a few of the things He knows: He created us and knew us before we were born and He knows the number of days we will live. Psalm 139:13, 15-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together...